In this interview Functional Nutritional Therapist Silvia Grisendi sheds light on how to kick-start your digestive system and liver this January.
For those suffering from the effects of post-seasonal excesses, what nutritional advice can you provide?
“For a speedy recovery, first of all I recommend simply giving your body a break from heavy and sugary foods, as well as alcohol, for a few weeks. This means choosing lighter and nourishing foods, such as freshly made vegetables soups, colourful salads and cleansing juices made from a mix of nutrient-rich vegetables and some fruit, such as celery, carrots, beetroots, parsley, apples, pineapple, lemon and ginger. Just a few days on this will start gentle but effective detoxification.
“Even just ensuring you drink plenty of pure water during the day can produce immediate benefits because it stimulates toxin excretion, especially when combined with an adequate intake of fibre-rich foods, which will ensure the colon can efficiently trap and eliminate the toxins processed and released by the liver. Fruit and vegetables are an ideal source of fibre, and then you can add pulses, nuts and seeds for more good fibre. These also provide easy-to-digest protein, which is essential for efficient liver function, as well as good fats (e.g. omega-3 oils), which have a wonderful anti-inflammatory effect.
“Finally, from a more holistic viewpoint, for me a good night sleep is invaluable in helping restore both body and mind after a period of ‘excesses’ as you say! Getting back into a healthy sleeping routine whenever possible really allows our natural circadian rhythm to work its magic and stimulate body detoxification, balance hormones, and move our metabolic pathways in a healthier direction. Freshly squeezed lemon juice in a little warm water when you get up in the morning will help kick-start the whole of the digestive system, including the liver, and prepare you for the day ahead (if done daily, it’s best to drink lemon water using a straw to avoid potential teeth damage from the acidity of the lemon juice).”
How long does it take the liver to recover after excessive eating and drinking?
“Good question! This really depends on the individual, and the status of the liver before the overindulging has taken place. The job of the liver is quite complex because it is where the vast majority of toxins in our body get processed for subsequent elimination via the colon, kidneys, skin and lungs. This occurs thanks to a vast number of biochemical reactions happening all at the same time and these require multiple nutrients to work efficiently. So, functional improvement of the liver can potentially be achieved relatively rapidly, in a matter of weeks on average, but we need to ensure first of all that all the necessary nutrients are available, that the body is well hydrated, that we pay attention to keeping our toxin burden as light as possible, and that the subsequent elimination pathways (colon, kidney, etc.) are also adequately healthy and well supported.
“The individual characteristics of each person also play an important role though, including aspects like the status of our intestinal microflora, for example, as well as our various genetic predispositions. For example, how well equipped are our detoxification pathways? What about certain key metabolic enzymes? We are all different, and this may in part explain why some of us can recover quite fast, while others need more time. That said, for most people the environment and lifestyle, including food choices and stress levels, are more impactful that our genes per se, because they are responsible for how our genetic traits manifest and ultimately influence our health. This is a fascinating area of Functional Nutrition called Epigenetics, and I personally really enjoy the type of work that can be done to help clients understand their genetic potential and then adjust their food and lifestyle to maximise wellness.”
Is there anything in particular that can help speed up the return to effective liver function and renewal?
“Well, for me the first port of call is always the great healer, food. Like I said, the liver works very hard all the time and has complex biochemical needs, but these can be addressed easily by literally getting the right vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds) into our bodies.
“Liver-friendly foods to include daily in our diet are dark leafy green vegetables, bitter greens, cruciferous vegetables, as well as aromatic herbs, such as turmeric, coriander, parsley, cilantro and oregano. Sulphur-rich onions and garlic are also excellent in supporting liver function, along with vitamin-dense beetroot, sweet potatoes, apples and lemons.
“For example, green juices made from a mix of leafy vegetables and herbs with the addition of goodies like celery, beets, carrots, lemon and ginger are a great way to flush the liver with the nutrients it needs in an easy-to-absorb way, especially if taken on an empty stomach.
“Finally, we cannot talk about liver health and renewal without mentioning the amazing Milk Thistle, a powerful healing and detoxifying herb that has been shown to literally rebuild liver cells and reverse some of the harmful effects caused by alcohol, medications, or other environmental toxins and even viruses.”
Do you have an easy-to-make-at-home detox recipe?
“There are many but one of my favourites is a simple detox drink that involves apple cider vinegar and only takes a couple of minutes to prepare. I call it ‘Liver Tonic’ and it has quite the kick!
“You’ll need a glass (approx. 250 ml) of warm water, to which you add 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, 2 tbsp of lemon juice, half tsp of ground ginger, half tsp of ground cinnamon, 1 little dash of cayenne pepper (if you can tolerate it well!), and finally a little bit of raw local honey. Stir all the ingredients together and drink while still warm or cooler if you prefer (use a straw), on an empty stomach and at least 20 minutes before a meal, up to three times a day, depending on your needs.”
Find out more
To find out more about Functional Nutrition or to book an appointment with Silvia, please email email@example.com.
 Guan YS et al. Plant consumption and liver health. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015, doi: 10.1155/2015/824185
 Abenavoli L et al. Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future. Phytother Res. 2010, 24(10): 1423-32.